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Sep 21, 2010
Adaptive radiations likely underlie much of the world's diversity, especially that of hyper-diverse regions. They are usually characterized by a burst of speciation early in their evolutionary history, a pattern which can be detected using population genetic tools. The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of southwestern South Africa is home to many spectacular plant radiations. Here, we investigate the white proteas (Protea section Exsertae), a typical CFR radiation, to determine if it demonstrates the burst of speciation associated with adaptive radiations in recent models. Inferences from individual assignment, tree-based population relationships, and pairwise F-statistics based on 10 microsatellite loci reveal that while the white proteas radiated recently they did not radiate explosively. In addition, we found evidence that there is little gene flow between sampled populations of most species. Taken together, these results demonstrate that within a small clade, the processes underlying the radiation are different from those envisioned by current models of adaptive radiation and suggest that geographical isolation could have played a role in the diversification of the group. Our study implicates both adaptive and non-adaptive processes in the evolution of botanical diversity of the CFR.